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A House is Where the Heart is

We bought a house.

Whew.

That single sentence (either of them) really cannot convey the craziness which is buying a house in these United States in 2010. The market is just awful. Most of the houses we walked through were vacant, either a short sale or in foreclosure. Both times we've owned a house, we've managed to be at the right ends of the US housing bubble.

Not only is the market full of these challenging types of home sales, the homes themselves are in varying degrees of vacancy or disuse. One home we put an offer on turned out to have been vandalized -- both A/C units needed replacing (an absolute must have in Arizona!). After that contract didn't go through, I really began to wonder if there was a house out there for us. Would we have to go through a year, or more, in an apartment?

Our requirements were many -- and our list of characteristics varied between "need" and "want". We needed at least 2000 square feet. I looked at a lot of homes in the 1750-2000 square foot range and it would have just been a stop-gap measure for us. Since we want to spend about 10 years in this place, working towards building a dome, that just wasn't an option.

We needed at least four bedrooms and two bathrooms. It had to be a ranch-style -- all on one level -- for me. I even considered some houses where the master and all necessary areas were on the main level, with the additional bedrooms either up or downstairs (finished basement). Most of the time, the fact we had ferrets made such options less than acceptable because of the way it was executed.

We like an open floor plan -- big great rooms, with the kitchen being the "hang-out place" for everyone. We wanted a "cook's kitchen" since three of the five people here are cooks -- plus I bake on occasion (but if they were happy, so was I).

The big kicker was location and size. How close could we get to Randy's job at ASU? How big of a lot could we get? The bigger the better -- but that meant a bigger price.

One of the houses which gave us the most hope (before we saw it) was in a two-block neighborhood in East Mesa, where the lots are all acre-plus and have horse privileges. Considering how "in town" that still is, that's unheard of! The house we were considering there was at the end of the cul-de-sac, backing onto one of the canals. It already had a diving pool, too. Unfortunately, the reality was awful. Even looking past the half-moved state of the home (the previous owners abandoned a lot of belongings on the property), there were layout and condition issues right away. At least two bedrooms were involved in a problem with the foundation which was causing the ceramic tile to crack. The so-called fourth bedroom was a joke. There was a staircase surrounded by a wrought-iron railing/gate which led down to a dark secondary room space. The stairwell was in the center of this "fourth bedroom". The kitchen was outdated and small, the living room was separated from the kitchen, as was the "family room". Clearly this potential dream property needed a better house. So we moved on.

In many of the homes we looked at, it was painfully obvious that the previous owners had added on -- closing in a back patio with less than stellar results. In one such home, I twisted my ankle and fell, slamming my left knee straight down on the tile. It's been over three months since that fall and I'm still having trouble with the knee, though my right hand and right ankle are better, for the most part.

The house we bought was added on to, but it's the best add-on we've seen. No matter where I've lived, I've always seen things I could fix in a layout to maximize the space for our use. The same is true here. While I love my master suite, my bathroom isn't big enough for a single person, let alone the three of us.

I do love that there is no carpet in this house. The great room and the areas off of it -- what will be Randy and Jenne's music room and our dining room, plus part of my master suite -- are all 16" tile. The rest of the house is laminate flooring. Whoever laid it down did an excellent job -- there's only one threshold which crosses two laminate floor areas. The other thresholds are laminate-to-tile. I haven't had a lot of time to let the ferrets run free yet, but they've had the run of my office a couple times. The sound of their little claws scampering on the laminate is just amazing.

We have so many plans for this place. I can't wait to get started on them! We intend to remove two large palms from the front yard and remove all the grass, too. We plan to xeriscape, using gravel between planter boxes for edible landscaping. I really want to try using ollas for watering our garden. Hopefully, eventually, we can put together a greywater system and save more water that way.

In the meantime, Obstacle Number One has already popped up: we're having problems with the plumbing. As this part of the story is still on-going, it will have to wait for later posts for more information.


Meanwhile, very shortly all my loves will be under one roof. I'm looking forward to this very much. I feel too scattered -- and the boxes all around me aren't helping, so maybe I should get back to it?

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